Skip to main content

Full text of "Some Secession pamphlets"

See other formats


By Henry M. Paton, M.A. 

A word of explanation must be prefixed to this paper. It 
was the intention of Mr. Paton to present to the Society a 
full bibliography of certain phases of Secession controversy. 
His notes disclose that there would have been over 200 items 
with the briefest description of each. The paper he read to 
the Society was intended only as an introduction to the 
bibliography. It has been found impossible to reconstruct 
the bibliography from the notes he left behind at his death. 
But the editorial committee is convinced that in the intro- 
ductory paper, representing the mature reflection on his own 
tradition by one so thoroughly trained in historical research, 
there are judgments and insights which are well worth 


Any claim I have to talk on this subject rests on two considerations : 

(r) my lifelong attachment to the Secession Church (in three separate 
sections of it) 

(2) the association of the Secession Church with the formation of this 
Society— when in 1921 the then Editor of the Original Secession 
Magazine intimated and commended the formation of the Scottish 
Church History Society, and the appointment of Dr. Alexander 
Smellie of Carluke and four other gentlemen as a committee to 
draw up a constitution and secure members. 

I had already inherited from my father! some pamphlets and other 
documents connected with the Secession ; and recently a few bound 
vo umes came to hand from the theological library of the now extinct 
ngmal Secession Synod. Some other books from that quarter have 
a ready found lodgment in the New College Library, and more may follow. 

This paper is to consist of a brief introduction to a List of Pamphlets 
It is out of the question, of course, to deal with all the pamphlets. Mean- 

rnasmall 116 / 1 ? 6 t0 me ’ 1 intend to strin S to S ether some remarks 

on a small selection illustrative of sundry main periods of Secession history 

ScotLfl tc H et n c ry Pat ° n ’ edit0r ° f part of the Re Z ister °f the P ^y Council of 





The more one studies that history the less one knows about it — at 
least I have found it so. The charts that have been prepared of Scottish 
Church History in the 18th and 19th centuries may be part of the reason. 
For in them while the ecclesiastical bodies on one side and the other, 
Reformed-Presbyterian and Episcopal, run a fairly straight course, all the 
complicated tangle in the middle of the picture owes its origin to the 
Secession movement, and possibly to some of the pamphlets thrown like 
spanners into the works. What makes it all the harder is the amazing lack 
of originality shown by the Seceders, both in their periods of fission and 
fusion, in the titles or labels by which they described themselves. From 
the time when first there was the Associate Presbytery, eventually 
becoming a Synod, the name “ Associate Synod ” was attached to Burgher 
and Antiburgher alike, to New Light Burgher and New Light Antiburgher 
alike, and the word “ Associate” continued thereafter at least seven 
times as part title — only broken by the formation of the United Original 
Secession Church in 1852. One would have thought that the words 
“Secession” and “Association” would be uncomfortable bedfellows! 

It is hardly needful to remind you that the Secession fathers, with 
those who rallied to them, took their stand against the Church of Scotland 
as then established, on three grounds : 

(1) acquiescence of the courts of the Church in the oppressive exercise 
of Patronage. 

(2) their restrictions upon freedom of speech and right of protest 

(3) permitting the teaching of erroneous doctrine, and lack of dis- 
cipline where it was most needed. 

To these they eventually added a fourth, the attitude to the Covenants, 
National, and Solemn League. In a later paragraph I may attempt a 
brief summation regarding these points. 

During the period of adjustment to new conditions, several papers were 
prepared and published by way of testimony and historical survey, for the 
guidance of congregations rallying to the Secession banner : most of 
which were afterwards collected by Rev. Adam Gib, and published in 1774 
with the title, Display of the Secession Testimony. 

One might divide the story of the Secession Church into four distinct 
periods : 

(1) From its inauguration at Gairney Bridge in December 1733 to its 
cleavage 14 years later into two parts ; 

(2) The period during which the two divided parties pursued their 
appointed path “ without speaking ’’—this will carry us towards 
the close of XVIII century ; 



(3) Efforts at emancipation by both parties from oppressive clauses 
in the Confession of Faith, resulting in the Old and New Light 
controversy, and eventually in reconciliation and union this 
covers from 1791 to 1827 ; 

(4) The Disruption movement in the National Church, and its impact 
on the Secession Church — 1843 to 1852. 


The earliest pamphlet which I deal with bears the title A ntichrist s 
Armour-Bearer Disarm’d, actually published before the Secession took 
place. Its full title-page is as follows : 

Antichrist’s Armour-Bearer Disarm’d 
or, THE 

Christian People’s 
Answers and Remarks 

A Pamphlet, intituled, The Christian 
People’s Testimony Made More Publick &c 


A short Vindication of the Sacred Grounds 
of their Right to chuse and call their own 
Pastors ; and a just Defence of their 
conduct and management in the Affairs of 
their said Testimony, so much quarrel’d by 
the foresaid Author 


Printed by T. Lumsden and J. Robertson, and 
sold by D. Oliphant and other booksellers in town. 


Not very lucid ! There was a fondness in those days for long rambling 
title pages, supposed to be explanatory but generally only deepening the 
shadows : and indeed this particular pamphlet is actually the last of a 
series. The circumstances seem to be as follows : First, an Overture had 
been presented to the Assembly in 1731 to the effect that the heritors 
whether residing locally or not, whether church members or not, should be 
associated with elders in the election of ministers in those cases in which the 
patron failed to present in time. This was rejected by a majority of 



presbyteries, but enacted nevertheless by the next Assembly, objections 
and protests being turned down, not only those by ministers but an in- 
dependent representation and petition by (McKerrow says) over 1700 
persons. Following thereupon some clergyman or other took upon him to 
write and publish a pamphlet entitled The Publick Testimony of above 
1600 Christian People against the Overture of the Assembly 1731 made more 
public and set in its due light, being a full confutation of their arguments 
adduced for the Divine right of popular elections. Halkett & Laing’s 
Dictionary of Anonymous Literature discloses that the author was Rev. 
George Logan ; and the Fasti indicates that he was the minister of Trinity 
College Church, Edinburgh. This reverend gentleman thought to do good 
service to the dominant party and gain kudos for himself by storming 
against the conservatives, but only succeeded in rousing the wrath of a 
brother minister, Mr. John Currie, of Kinglassie, who answered with a 
pamphlet A Full Vindication of the People’s right to elect their own 
pastors : followed by the pamphlet now before us. This group of Christian 
people commended Currie’s Vindication heartily, but felt that they must 
also make answer, just to clear themselves. Who wrote the pamphlet in 
their name, I have not discovered (not in Halkett & Laing’s Dictionary). 
Their reply is in no measured terms : they denounce as an apostate, a 
romanist, and a devil’s advocate the aforesaid protagonist for patronage. 
One finds in many of the pamphlets a wealth of invective and outspoken 
comment, on both sides of course, symptomatic of the fever-heat of 
religious controversy. Answering his statements one by one, they charge 
him with mishandling texts and misrepresenting facts to suit his purpose ; 
with citing in support of his case events and incidents which had no 
bearing thereon. He had taunted them with the smallness of their number, 
and their evident intention of setting up a church of their own. He had 
argued that if their approach to the Assembly had been humble and abject 
enough, they would have got a hearing, and that august body would have 
“ ordered something to be published for shewing the weakness and 
insufficiency of the arguments you build up the Divine right of popular 
election upon.” He further wrote, “ Had you been used as you richly 
deserved, the Committees had moved to the Assembly to proceed against 
you with the censures of the Church.” To all this they reply, e.g. 

(p.59)“He boasts, as if the Church’s keys were hanged at his and his 
friends’ girdle, for no other end than to open the door to Christ’s 
enemies, and shut it on His children and servants; but we can 
assure him they were never, like Antichrist’s keys, formed or 
appointed for so vile and anti-christian ends.” 

(p .77) “This poor man, in defending his unhallowed cause, would seem to 



be sore pinch’d and reduc’d to the last extremity, when he’s so 
much obliged, like the sow in the puddle, still to be plunging in 
fulsom work : and, as if it were his element, finishes his poor task 
with a vile and lothsom collection, scraped out of so many borrowed 
and begged registers ; a pillar of sand and mud, erected very 
artificially, for supporting his rotten and tottering building.” 

They also aver that in a smaller pamphlet ( Humble Enquiry &c ) the same 
author had in 15 lines disposed of Currie’s pamphlet of 376 pages. There 
is some reference in this pamphlet to a controversy on similar lines being 
carried on between the Presbyterian ministers in London and the 
Independents. The copy now before me has 78 pages, but is incomplete ; 
perhaps I shall find a full version somewhere in due course. It is worth 
noting in the passing, that in this case and in many others, one pamphlet 
discloses the existence of other pamphlets which might have been over- 

Suffice it now, however, to know that Antichrist’s Armour-Bearer has 
been duly Disarmed. 

The mention of Mr. Currie of Kinglassie reminds one that he had 
proved a thorn in the flesh to the leaders of the Secession, for although 
described in the Fasti as a friend and correspondent of the Erskines he is 
known to have been a bitter opponent of their secession — along with 
John Williamson of Inveresk : and indeed both were in measure respon- 
sible for Wilson of Perth’s Defence of Reformation Principles published a 
year or two before his death. 

Just after Wilson’s demise in 1741 another event called for an extra 
supply of quills, and interest can be focussed on a pamphlet by Ralph 
Erskine whose title page runs as follows : 



Remarks upon Mr. Webster’s Postscript to 
Second Edition of his Letter. 


A True and full copy of Mr. Ralph Erskine’s 
Letter to Mr. John Wesley, and Observes on 
Mr. Webster’s false copy of it, leaving out the 
marks he gave therein of a truly Divine Work. 




Mr. Wesley’s Testimonial sent to Mr. Erskine 
in a Letter from Mr. Whitefield etc. in a 
missive to a Brother who sought Mr. Erskine’s 
thoughts upon that Postscript. 


An Appendix relating especially to imaginary 
ideas of spiritual things, occasioned by Mr. 

Robe in his second Letter to Mr. Fisher, his 
quoting Mr. Shepherd and Mr. Erskine on 
that subject. 

There you have the whole dramatis personae ! Could you ever imagine 
Ralph Erskine to be so obtuse : you can picture the recipients of the 
pamphlet devoting a whole evening to the title page before going any 

The background of this effort (publ. 1743) was the revival movement 
which resulted from the visit of George Whitefield to Scotland in 1741 and 
became centered round Cambuslang and Kilsyth. The demonstrations 
(emotional and otherwise) connected therewith caused an outcry in the 
Associate Presbytery, some taking one side and some the other ; and 
papers were written both to attack and to defend this new experience. As 
you know, the relations which at first were friendly between the Erskines 
and Wesley and Whitefield became frayed, and this “ Cambuslang Work ” 
did not improve matters. Solid (not to say stolid) matter-of-fact 
ecclesiastics tend rather to shy at borderland manifestations of spiritual 
activity — even yet. Two protagonists of the movement were (1) Rev. 
James Robe of Kilsyth, who wrote A Narrative about the revival, and also 
A Friendly Caution to Seceders : and (2) Alexander Webster (Webster of 
Census fame, 1755), minister of Tolbooth Church (1737-84), Edinburgh, 
whose Letter Divine Influence the True Spring of the Extraordinary Work 
at Cambuslang and other places in the W est of Scotland is bound in with this 
pamphlet in the New College Library ; by the way, wrongly attributed in 
Fasti to Ralph Erskine. Our old friend Currie of Kinglassie also took sides 
with the revivalists. Arrayed against them were many members of the 
Associate Presbytery, who took refuge in their familiar weapon, proclaim- 
ing a Fast : and Ralph Erskine, whose pamphlet we are discussing. There 
is no time to enter into details. This pamphlet is not included in my 
collection ; but when searching for a copy to examine, I found that the 
British Museum Catalogue did not mention it — and neither did a seven- 
volume edition of Ralph Erskine’s Sermons and Other Practical Works, 
with an account of the author’s Life and Writings. The sermons were 



there, overflowing in their abundance; much of the poetry was there ; 
but as regards the Practical Works, all that I could find was a single 
sentence to this effect : “ Mr. Erskine published many works in prose . as 
his sermons, his “ Faith No Fancy,” &c. 

Ralph Erskine who wrote very many pamphlets during his ministry 
early and late, was also a zealous defender of the faith and, prompted 
partly by the Cambuslang business and partly by the earlier proceedings 
anent Professor Simson, he launched a pamphlet in 1745 under the title 
FAITH NO FANCY, running to 440 pages. The only copy that I have 
seen is a very tattered one in Edinburgh University Library, which Dr. 
Sharp helped me to ferret out. I have not risked producing it, as it will 
not stand much handling. 1 A catchy title like this would agree with the 
author’s poetic spirit, and has kinship with many bizarre titles of those and 
later generations, such as the late Dr. Boreham’s " Wisps of Wildfire,” 
“ A Tuft of Comet’s Hair,” etc. All poetry fades however into the light 
of common day with the customary elongated title page, to this effect : 




The vain Philosophy and vile Divinity of a late 
Pamphlet intitled Mr. Robe’s fourth Letter to Mr. 

Fisher ; and shewing, that an imaginary Idea of 
Christ as Man (when supposed to belong to saving 
Faith, whether in its Act or Object) imports nothing 
but Ignorance, Atheism, Idolatry, great Falsehood, 
and gross Delusion. 

By Ralph Erskine, A.M., Minister of the 
Gospel at Dunfermline ; who was very 
confidently, but very ignorantly, charged 
with blasphemy and heresy in the said 
Pamphlet, for condemning that imaginary 

1 An unmutilated copy in New College Library (Fio/as) has been overlooked 
by Mr. Paton. 



With an Appendix, relating to part of the late 
writings of the Rev. Messrs. Willison and Currie, 
especially touching some Points of Gospel Doctrine 
injured by their Defence of the Act of Assembly 
1722, etc. 

Examination shows that the pamphlet was written in reply to doctrinal 
attacks on the real humanity of Our Lord, at the hands of some who 
treated His human nature as some kind of mirage or hallucination. 
Erskine’s line of thought is partly indicated here and there, as when 
he writes : — 

(viii) “ ... by mental understand no more but internal images, as 
distinguished from external, and consequently much of the same 
import with fancies .... Yet I chused to call them mental rather 
than internal images, because as the mind is the proper seat of faith 
so these images are especially hurtful and opposite to faith .... 
distract and darken the mind, diverting it with these imaginary 
pictures from viewing and fixing upon the proper object of faith.” 
(xii) “ . . . When I insinuated in my letter that according to my 
information they were not all sound divines that were the instruments 
and promoters of the work at Cambuslang, I had no such clear view 
that Mr. Robe was of that number : but now indeed I cannot see 
how to exclude him ... I cannot vindicate him from heterodoxy 
and idolatry both, relating to the human nature of our glorious 
Redeemer ...” 

(xiv) ”... this subject is so new and strange (I knowing no divine 
that hath directly treated it), and the expressions Mr. Robe hath 
upon it are so many and various, that I am obliged to enlarge and 
extend my discourse upon it to a more than ordinary length, that so 
I may endeavour to shut all the doors he hath opened for his doctrine 
of natural senses and imaginary ideas ...” 

There is no time to deal at large with the Covenant question, which at this 
period caused commotion and friction. Pamphlets had already been 
written about it, and the Associate Presbytery drew up a form of Bond 
for Renewing the Covenants suited to the times, and in course of time they 
endeavoured to make the signing of it a term or condition of communion 
which eventually proved abortive. Some of the congregations did sign ; 
for instance, Moncrieff of Abernethy preached on consecutive Sabbaths 
an endless sermon on the text in Isaiah xix, 18 (” In that day shall five 
cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the 
Lord of hosts ”). This sermon was published two and a half years later in 
his pamphlet ” The Duty of National Covenanting Explained,” and takes 



up 132 pages thereof ; and in a pastoral note to his congregation he says, 
“ These notes were taken from my mouth, in the short hand, by one of the 
hearers, when they were delivered unto you ... I have hereto subjoined 
the Bond you have come under.” It is probable that his hearers (and the 
sleepers too) would after that be ready to sign anything ! 

Quot homines tot sententiae, as the saying goes ; and from the literature 
of this period it is clear that elements of weakness were present in the 
lately formed Secession group. Whether owing to personal rivalry, or to 
over-emphasis on matters which could reasonably be left to individual 
judgment, some undesirable fruits appeared ; friction and fractiousness 
were in the ascendant, and ecclesiasticism took the place of brotherly 
kindness. This was all the more regrettable, as there was one event in 
connection with which the Seceders spoke and acted with one accord : the 
invasion of Scotland by the son of the Pretender, Prince Charles Edward 
Stewart. When his forces entered Edinburgh in September 1745, the 
Seceders carried their own banner inscribed “ For Religion, the Covenants, 
King and Kingdom ” — as they did also in Glasgow and other parts ; and 
it is interesting to discover a pamphlet of 68 pages, printed in Edinburgh 
that same year, with the title, The Sinfulness of Compliance with the 
Rebels Detected : ‘‘wherein is shown, that the paying contributions to 
them in money, arms, tents, etc. is condemned by the Scriptures, the 
laudable Acts and Constitutions of this Church, in her purest times, and 
in its nature involves perjury and high treason.” The author partly con- 
ceals himself under the letters “IM VDM” and as he seems to write 
from the Secession point of view this might be interpreted as James Mair 
(‘‘VDM” being verbi Dei minister). Mair was Secession minister 
(Small, 1564) at West Linton. If he is not the author I cannot place him, 
and I get no help from Dictionaries of Anonymous Literature or other 
library sources. Whoever he was, he stood like a lion in defence of the 
right, as the following excerpt from the pamphlet will serve to prove : 

I have said towards the end of the pamphlet that so far as I can find, 
from the best histories, the Popish Pretender, for whom many 
foolishly risk their all in this and the other world, is nothing else than 
a Spurious Brat, never descended of the Royal family . . . What 
dreadful infatuation has befallen men who give kindness and assis- 
tance to this French Nursling and Romish Dupe, or to his 
Braggadocio son with the Bravado clans that attend him ? 

It will be remembered that our friend Adam Gib exhibited the same 

defiant spirit by preaching on the hills near Edinburgh while the Prince 
was in the city. 



On pp. 39 to 53 the pamphlet narrates barbarities perpetrated by 
Papists, so horrible that they would not nowadays be given printing 

Returning now to the ecclesiastical situation. The endeavour of the 
Presbytery (now a Synod) to enforce subscription of the Bond or Covenant 
as a passport for church membership had greatly irritated and perplexed 
the congregations of the Secession, and criticism of the Synod’s handling 
of affairs flourished apace. 

There is a passage in Isaiah about those who ‘ ‘ make a man an offender 
for a word,” and no better illustration could be found than what occurred 
when the Synod took in hand the interpretation of a religious clause in 
the oath which was exacted from persons admitted to burgessship in the 
towns of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. Over and above the fact that 
it concerned such a limited area, there was nothing in it beyond a vow to 
exclude Papists from holding office. There were plenty of Papists around 
at the time, while the Jacobite movement was on ; and then, as now, they 
were not unwilling to take control of positions where they could influence 
politics. Anyone who will study the situation will see that the fuss made 
over the matter in the Secession Synod was beyond all reason, and what 
followed was the result of misguided counsels, while some parts of the 
ecclesiastical procedure were entirely unconstitutional. The two Erskines 
and many of their friends were left high and dry, while Adam Gib and 
Thomas Mair and a few adherents took the bit in their teeth and dragged 
half the Secession after them. Some good service Gib did for the Secession 
cause, but at this time his sentiments and his actions were ferocious in the 
extreme, to the extent of disowning his former brethren : it even had its 
ludicrous side, for his partner Mr. Mair fell under the same curse a few 
years later. One, Patrick Matthew, minister of Midholm (Midlem), when 
they went the length of excommunicating, withdrew and joined the 
Burghers and thereupon was himself excommunicated. Gib himself lived 
to regret his impetuosity. Of course, pamphlets galore passed to and fro : 
among these Eben. Erskine’s The True State of the Question ; Ralph’s 
Narrative of the Separation, and The lawfulness of the Religious Clause in 
Some Burgess Oaths Asserted, and other pamphlets by Archibald Hall 
and James Fisher : but one pamphlet is worthy of mention, again by 
Ralph Erskine, entitled “Fancy No Faith” (reversing the title he 
formerly used in quite a different connection) for this was a reply to the 
published Acts and Proceedings of the Associate Synod (Mair’s and Gib’s 
party, afterwards known as the Anti-Burghers). 







by RALPH ERSKINE, a.m., minister 



In this pamphlet of 65 pages Ralph Erskine charged the Anti-burghers 
with publishing inaccurate accounts of what had transpired at the Breach, 
saying : 

“ I thought myself obliged as a Watchman set upon the walls of the 
City of God, to give timeous warning to the Lord's People to beware 
of taking upon trust or swallowing down by an implicit Faith the 
gross mistakes and misrepresentations ” 

in the foresaid newly published Account. Erskine’s pamphlet went into 
four or more editions, and was answered by an anonymous author with 
I indication of Proceedings of the Associate Synod . . . containing some 
remarks upon a late pamphlet entitled Fancy No Faith. This objector 
wrote (p. n) : 

"... Therefore I may say, alluding to the works of a certain Author, 
that the superstructure raised upon this foundation in some pam- 
phlets, such as Fancy No Faith, A Narrative of the Separation, &c. 
being supported neither by Scripture nor Reason, but by strong 
assertion, is a building without any Bottom but the Air of strong 
Imaginations, both noxious and infectious, even as much as any 
Delusion in Scotland ever was ; and therefore I do not think it my 
proper work to make any reply to prints of such a kind and nature 
but he took over 50 pages to say it. 

By way of riposte Erskine wrote Observations on the Conduct of 
Separating Brethren, with Fancy Still No Faith (132 pp. in all) in which 
he writes : (assailing Gib and his faction) 



It would follow . . . that there never was any lawful Synodical 
constitution in the Church of Scotland from the First Reformation 
thereof till the Synod that met in Mr. Gib’s house on ioth April, 1747, 
when by an extraordinary light (he) speaks of not by looking to any 
one word of Scripture . . . but by a ray or beam from above as 
they supposed or fancied they came on a sudden to see, that they 
were the only anti-Erastian Synod that ever was in Scotland before, 
and that all the keys of the kingdom of heaven were hanging only 
at their belt . . . (p. 105) 

The preface to this pamphlet, by the way, was signed by Eben. Erskine 
and James Fisher, both of whom had written pamphlets on the same 

As an indication of the popularity of such pamphlets, note that it was 
published in Glasgow (1748) and procurable from agents (whose names are 
given) in Perth, Kirkcaldy, Dunfermline, Haddington, Edinburgh, 
Linlithgow, Kilmarnock, Jedburgh, Linton — and London. 

After this the flow of pamphlets was less dense — while the Burghers 
and Anti-burghers busied themselves in consolidating their position in the 
ecclesiastical world. The principal event during this period was the creation 
of the “ Relief ” Church through the continued oppressive measures of the 
Church of Scotland under the Patronage system. The Presbytery of 
Relief was constituted in 1761, the moderator being Thomas Boston, son 
of the minister of Ettrick. The movement got little recognition from 
Seceders, as it failed in essential to equate with the Secession cause. Our 
Church Testimony hints that it provided Relief for those who came out of 
the national Church, while eventually “ chapels of ease ” were provided 
for those who stayed in. 

Our friend Adam Gib began to gather strength again, and became very 
active with his “ scourge of small cords”: not but what he was sometimes 
right, as when in defence of the faith he took part in decisions of the Synod 
against Mr. Alexander Pirie, a teacher of Philosophy in the Theological 
Seminary ; a case that went on for some time, and evoked a pamphlet 
from Pirie concerning which McKerrow has this comment : ‘ ‘ Should the 
vituperative vocabulary of any of the controversialists of the present day 
(i.e. 1840 period) who are now writing against the Secession with such 
keenness be exhausted, and should they be at a loss for a few angry and 
abusive expressions to give zest to their proproductions, I can recom- 
mend to them a pamphlet . . . published by Mr. Pirie in 1769-’ 

Another disturber of Mr. Gib’s peace of mind was Andrew Scott, 
minister at Dundee, whose pamphlet, The Peculiar Scheme of the Anti- 



Burgher Seceders Unmasked (addressed to Gib in a series of Letters), 
objects to practices among Anti-burgher ministers in connection with 
methods of prayer, communion and covenanting. This recalls the subject 
of a recent paper by Dr. Watt on the minister of Kilmaurs, David Smyton 
(an old man, about ages with Gib) who took it into his head that there was 
Scriptural authority for “ lifting ” the bread and cup at the communion 
table, and that all was not well if this was not done. 

Gib was also annoyed with old Alexander Moncrieff’s overture that the 
King should be petitioned to redress grievances concerning religion ; and 
Gib advanced powerful arguments against it in his Address to the Associate 
Synod, nth October, 1759, published in 1763. 

One of the more interesting of his ventures is A Memorial and 
Remonstrance read before the Synod in 1782, and published 1784, in which 
he criticises a sermon preached before them professing to calculate pro- 
phetic dates and figures and associate them with events in history. Gib 
considered this to be a species of juggling, and fraught with danger of 
unsettling people’s minds and diverting them from more vital issues, in 
particular, obscuring the importance of the issue which lay at the heart of 
the Anti-burgher testimony. 

By this time his work was almost at an end. He had accomplished a 
great deal, and a few years before this his Display of the Secession 
Testimony had been published, the work by which he is best remembered. 
He died in 1788, the last survivor of the original band. 


And now the twin ships of the Secession begin to drift towards the 
rocks once more : but before examining the wreckage let me mention its 
very antithesis, a pamphlet bearing the entrancing title, Peace and 
Harmony Restored : being an account of the agreement which took place 
amongst the Burgher and Anti-burgher Seceders, and the Reformed 
Presbytery in North America, in the summer of 1782 (published in 
Glasgow, 1783). It contained proposals for erecting the Associate- 
Reformed Synod of North America, and an Act of that Synod for a Fast 
Whether a pamphlet by Archibald Hall in 1770 on Church Fellowship — 
commended by James Fisher— had anything to do with it I don’t know : 
Hall’s name is mentioned in some narratives on the subject. Again, in 
Ireland, there was effort made to get the Synod to act towards restoring 
the Church to what it was before the Breach : but the Seceders in Scotland" 
especially the Anti-burghers, were hard to convince in either case and 



showed no desire to improve the occasion. Long delays were caused. 
Though the first overtures were made in 1805, the Irish union of Burghers 
and Anti-burghers was only consummated in 1818, by which time ‘ ‘ union " 
in all its vigour and ferment was in the air in Scotland. The point is that 
the children had anticipated the parents in this direction. 

Before anything in this line could be established in Scotland, there had 
to be an outburst of “blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke” over a 
question which the Seceders seemed never to be able to keep out of their 
minds. In a period when the whole social and economic structure of the 
country was changing, with problems of readjustment both in political 
and ecclesiastical fields, relations between Church and State became again 
the dominant theme in Secession circles. The old claim that the Civil 
Authority had too much of a hand in the management of Church affairs, 
and could inflict punishment on offenders as well as appoint meetings of 
Church courts, (in terms of passages in the Westminster Confession of 
Faith) led to proposals for a modification of the Formula subscribed by 
ministers at their ordination. This was coupled with a change of sentiment 
about the overruling obligation of the Covenants (especially the Solemn 
League and Covenant, which had more of statecraft about it). On these 
issues a whole forest of pamphlets came into being ; I have beside me a 
list of nearly a hundred, which it would take weeks to discuss ! Among the 
combatants, or perhaps advisers would be a better word, Lawson of 
Selkirk wrote a good and well-reasoned pamphlet in 1797 in favour of what 
was called the Preamble to the Formula : and I may say here that if 
Seceders had read some of these pamphlets to see both sides of a question 
instead of denouncing them because of the authors, much trouble and 
provocation would have been avoided. Dick of Slateford sided with 
Lawson ; Bruce of Whitburn and Thomas McCrie (the elder) took the 
other view. Bruce wrote quite a few pamphlets of considerable importance 
on the Powers of the Civil Magistrate. There is a bookful of them, dating 
1797, 1798, and 1799 (with a second edition of one of them in 1802) : but 
he had previously declared his views in a sermon preached in 1778 (20 
years earlier) and published with the title Corruptions in the Church to be 
Eradicated — a pamphlet noted neither by McKerrow nor Scott. There 
were other writings attributed to him, ranging over a wide political and 
anti-Roman Catholic field, concerning which Scott affirms : (pp. 520-1) 

Opinions which are now freely uttered and published every day were 
in those times bringing men to the gallows. Professor Bruce might 
think as freely as he pleased, but he must be careful what he put in 
print. For some of his treatises on the subject of political and 
religious rights he could find no publisher ; they were too outspoken 



and bold. Nevertheless he determined that his sentiments should 
reach the public, which needed so much to hear them. He bought a 
printing-press in Edinburgh, and had it conveyed to Whitburn. He 
hired an old printer to work it . . . The printing was bad, the paper 
was execrable, but the matter made amends . . . The fault of his 
writings was their great diffusiveness . . . 

The Burgher Synod split on the issue in 1799 to be followed by the Anti- 
burgher Synod in 1806. The majority in each case was for the Preamble, 
and its partisans came to be known as New Light Burghers or Anti- 
burghers, while the small minorities gained the title Old Light Burgher or 
Anti-burgher. (Lest we criticise too strongly the old Seceders for their 
tendency to fission, take note that in 1831 the Baptists in America con- 
sisted of nine different sects all with distinctive names, whose ministers 
ranged from a maximum of over 2900 to a minimum of 10.) 

The contest between the Old and New Light supporters continued for 
some years, during which McCrie gave forth his Statement (1807) in 
defence of the 1806 separation, and Professor Bruce of Whitburn hurled 
his bolt in the same direction with his Review of Proceedings , a pamphlet 
of 421 pages (1808) — the longest I have seen. People were however getting 
restive about all this friction, and pamphlets were taking on a new 
complexion. The spirit of Union was in the air. A sermon by Dr. Alexander 
Duncan was printed under the title The Peace of Zion (1819) : Reunion 
Among Seceders by Rev. A. Blair : Dr. Jamieson of Edinburgh wrote 
likewise in favour — but others, including McCrie, wrote against it. One 
of the neatest pamphlets I have found is this one : 



With Remarks on the Proposed 

between these numerous and respectable bodies 


London : Printed by W. Tew, 

170, Upper Thames St., near Dowgate Hill. 


In a series of short letters the writer, disguising his name and signing 
“ R,” describes to the Secretary of State for Ireland, who happened also 
to be M.P. for Inverness-shire, the kind of people the Seceders were, their 
Church practices, etc., with a very accurate estimate of their history. A 


most interesting little pamphlet, from which I quote these passages : 
(pp. 40-44) 

(Speaking of Secession ministers) “ It is to the shame and disgrace 
of my countrymen that in many instances these worthy men are 
placed in a situation very little removed from penury ; it too fre- 
quently happens that their hearers conceive, when they have paid 
four, five or six shillings annually for a sitting in the place of worship, 
they have done enough for the support of a minister. If they doubled 
the sum, it would not be missed at the end of the year : and how 
much more comfortable would their pastor be. A shoeblack in 
London gets thrice the money from each of his employers that most 
individuals in Scotland pay for the maintenance of a gospel ministry. 
... In making these remarks I am not influenced by any personal 
interest. You, Sir, are aware that I am not a minister nor am I 
related to any seceding minister, in the most distant degree of con- 
sanguinity ...” 

(Then alluding to efforts for union in Ireland and America which 
‘‘having begun at the extremities of the body” are gradually 
reaching the centre, he proceeds) . . . ‘ ‘ Why should they remain 
in a separate state of ecclesiastical and Christian communion ? They 
both hold the same evangelical sentiments — they love and serve the 
same Divine Master, without any variation in their mode of worship 
— they both keep up a secession from the national Church on the 
same grounds — and without the slightest shade of difference adhere 
to the same system of ecclesiastical polity ...” (and much more 
than I can now quote). 

No reference is made to the pamphlet in Halkett & Laing, and I cannot 
identify the writer : but towards the close of his letters he writes : 

“ It has been my study to state facts, unembellished by partiality to 
one or other of the branches of the Secession church. In this instance 
I have so far succeeded, that your Scotch readers imagine the letters 
have come from the pen of an Anti-burgher ; an evidence I have not 
been partial to my own sect ; being a member of the Burgher con- 
gregation in Miles’s Lane.” 

He commends a perusal of a work “ on the Nature of a Gospel Church ” 
by the late Rev. Archibald Hall, of Wells Street, Oxford Street, (probably 
the pamphlet on Church Fellowship already mentioned, published in 1770) 
whose subordinate title was Essay on Principles of communion of saints in 
a Gospel Church. 



We cannot deal in detail with the Unions of 1820 and 1827 which 
resulted from all this commotion: the first between the New Light 
Burgher and the New Light Anti-burgher, to form the United Associate 
Synod (United Secession Church) : and the other between the Anti-burgher 
minorities, to form the Associate Synod of Original Seceders. Thereafter 
things moved rapidly, and new coalitions were formed. The Old Light 
Burgher gravitated in 1839 into the Church of Scotland ; three years 
later the remnant of the Old Light Burgher joined hands with their Anti- 
burgher brethren ; and the breakaway at that time of Messrs. Wright and 
Lambie has (with all its results) been very efficiently dealt with by Mr. 
MacWhirter in his paper on Anti-burgher Remnants. It was into this 
exclusive section of the Church that I had the fortune or the mischance to 
be bom — a Hebrew of the Hebrews ! 

The majority of the Seceders who took part in the Union of 1820 joined 
the Relief Church in 1847 to form the United Presbyterian Church. These 
were the Voluntaries : independent of State control and of financial aid 
therefrom. Many pamphlets deal with this question between 1830 and 
1840. Then in the National Church, the persistent misuse of Patronage 
produced its bitter harvest in the withdrawal of a large proportion of its 
ministers and members in 1843. 

This “ Disruption ” created fresh problems for the Secession Church — 
naturally enough, finding brethren emancipating themselves in like manner 
as did their own Secession Fathers, in a good cause and with considerable 
sacrifice. The leaders of the Secession sniffed at the Free Church brethren 
to see if they were of the faith ; but discovering a weakness in relation to 
the obligation of the Covenants, they shied away and had no further con- 
tact for six or seven years, when their hopes were raised by an overture 
from Dr. Candlish ; only to be dashed again when his overture was watered 
down by the powers that be. 

Once again, many pamphlets take shape ; some concerned with the 
question of a possible return of the Seceders to the fold of the mother 
Church, 1 others with the more immediate problem of relations with the 
Free Church. There were two main considerations : How did the new body 
stand with relation to the Covenants ; and, Was the claim well-founded 
that the Free Church was the true representative of the Church from which 

1 Day and Duty : Disruption, and Present Duty of Free Church and Original 
Seceders : J. Gray, Edinburgh, 1843. 24pp. Should the Original Seceders continue 
their secession from the Est. Church. By an old Seceder, Dublin 1844. Free Church 
and the Covenanters, " Western Watchman,” 1844. 



Secession was made in 1733. On both issues there was much difference of 
opinion ; and the pamphleteering contestants kept rolling over one another 
as they tried to sort things out. In perusing the pamphlets you find cut 
and thrust and all the art of fencing fully displayed. As a recipe for 
insomnia I recommend a Secession pamphlet of mature vintage. It was 
during this time (1845) that an old friend, Mr. Wright, signing himself “A 
Free Church Presbyterian,” wrote to Dr. Chalmers on the subject of co- 
operation without incorporation. 

But I must confine myself to two men of different colour, one Brown 
and one White, and an umpire called Murray : a sort of triumvirate, who 
held the field in a three-cornered fight, and wrote many of the pamphlets 
at this time. 

Rev. William White was Secession minister at Haddington. Born at 
Harthill near Whitburn in December 1811, he studied under Paxton 
in Edinburgh, and became editor of the Original Secession Magazine 
from 1847 to 1852. When in 1852 he entered the service of the Free 
Church, he and his congregation continued their attachment to that 
body till 1871 when he died, and a few years later the congregation 
dispersed (Small i, 516). 

Rev. Matthew Murray, minister of the Secession Church at Glasgow, 
was born in 1804 at North Berwick, descended of a long line of 
ministers (four generations from father to son covering 130 years, 
whose ancestor was later described by Jupiter Carlyle as a dry 
withered stick !). Murray died in 1876. 

Rev. Archibald Brown, a student in the Established Church, joined the 
section of Original Seceders called the Protestors, and ministered at 
Leslie in Fife and at Kirriemuir in Angus before he came to take 
charge of the Secession congregation worshipping at Adam Square 
in Edinburgh. He died in 1879. 

These three men were all prolific writers, and at the critical period, 1850, 
White was 40, Brown and Murray 45. Murray pursued throughout a 
stedfast course, Brown became something like a cracker or Catherine 
wheel ; and White was “Aunt Sally ” to both of them. One can mention 
only one or two pamphlets among many. White was first in the field with 
his paper Christ’s Covenant the Best Defence of Christ s Crown (1844) * <*ni 
again in 1850 he issued his Historical View of Various Settlements of the 
Church of Scotland, with special reference to the present position of the Free 
Church. Replying apparently to some writer in the Free Church Magazine 
who asserted that the Covenants had become a fetish, White closes a 32 
page pamphlet thus : 



“ From what has been said, it will be apparent that it is about no small 
trivial matter, peculiar to a handful of people called Seceders or 
‘ ‘ Auld Lights,” who have fallen far into the rear of civilisation and stand 
separated from all their fellow-men upon some crotchet, respecting 
the precise manner in which a split hair should be split the second 
time. This is the way in which it pleases people to speak who have too 
much indolence or conceit or genius to take time to understand the 

question The Covenants were found to be no crotchets in 

times of old ... . If you want to see what our crotchets have done, 
ye men of enlightened minds, ye Solomons, whose hearts are enlarged 
as the sand of the seashore .... read the history of the Church of 
Scotland down till 1649, for till that period it is just the history of the 
Covenant, which is a mere crotchet ; and from 1649 t° 1688 you will 
see how nobly the adherents of a crotchet can suffer and how 
heroically they can die. And now tell us what has been done for 
Scotland by your enlarged views and more catholic spirit . . . . 
where are your Scottish Worthies, where is your Cloud of Witnesses, 
the graves of your martyrs ? Alas, modern Liberality, thy words are 
great but thy deeds are few ; thou hast no history of the kind that 
lives : and till we get something better from thee than words .... 
we shall even abide by our crotchet.” 

Meanwhile Murray had entered the lists in 1849 with Remarks on the 
Position, Principles and Present Duty of Original Seceders ; and being 
challenged by a brother elder he wrote a Reply. The critic (Wm. McCrie) 
commended Murray in these terms : 

“ The remarks of the author are characterised by the moderation of 
tone, gentlemanly feeling, and Christian integrity, which were to be 
expected in any work proceeding from such a source;” 

his objections were along the line that Murray did not take sufficient 
account of what seemed to be the altered circumstances of the Secession 
Church. It is difficult,” writes the critic, “ to resist the impression that 
he has been asleep for the last 20 years.” This McCrie Seceder was definitely 
a “ Unionist.” In his reply, Murray patiently and laboriously goes over 
the whole ground again, reaffirming his own estimation of the Free Church 
so far as it goes, but that it does not in his estimation go far enough ! Now, 
at this date, this was just the position that White maintained : that the 
Free Church attitude to the full recognition of the Covenants constituted a 
barrier to union. This he made quite clear in his editorial effusions in the 
Original Secession Magazine, as also in a Letter to Rev. Janies Lumsden 
(29pp. 1850) who was a Free Churchman : he writes : 

“ We see how easily the Free Church could adopt the Covenants, and 



how exceedingly inconsistent and suicidal is her backwardness to 
do so ” 

And in his remarks on the Act and Declaration of the Free Church 
(Original Secession Magazine, September 1851) he says : 

‘ ' We would begin by observing, that it would be a total misappre- 
hension of the nature and design of the above document, if Original 
Seceders should regard it in the light of a basis of union between them 
and the Free Church. ... ” 

So hitherto we find Murray, Brown and White in perfect agreement, along 
with many others. Judge then of their surprise when they read in their 
copy of the Original Secession Magazine only two months later (November 
1851) a paper by White with the title Historical View of the Grounds on 
which the Secession from the Established Church of Scotland was originally 
stated and defended : liable to be confused with his paper already referred 
to, Historical Views of Various Settlements, etc. but with a vastly different 
content. The substance is, that if the Free Church has (by the Act and 
Declaration) received the standards of the Church of Scotland as that 
Church had received them, and thereby homologated the Covenants, “ We 
must express our satisfaction.” Referring to his previous articles, he says : 
' ‘ When the above articles were written they were very generally approved, 
and it may be the case that some who then approved of them may now see 
it their duty to take up higher ground ” (that is, against union) but they 
must then prove “ that it would be our duty to maintain an active and 
positive secession from the Free Church ...” 

In the following issue of the Magazine he examines the Act and 
Declaration in detail, and writes : 

‘ ‘ We submit it to the intelligence and candour of all our readers, 
whether the real difference between the Original Secession and the 
Free Church does not consist ... in this, that the former owns the 
obligation of the Covenants explicitly while the latter does so only 
implicitly ... Is there such a difference between owning the obli- 
gation of the Covenants explicitly, and owning it implicitly, as will 
warrant us to keep up a division in the Church ?” 

Murray immediately challenged him in a Letter of 28 pages and quoted 
many passages in which White betrayed his change of attitude. White 
tried to disentangle himself in a Reply in which he accused Murray and 
others of showing a like versatility (pp. 25, 26) : and to this Murray again 
replied — and so the wordy warfare went on. But in the end we find W hite 
signing the decision for Union, and taking his seat in the Free Church 
court to the plaudits of the assembled multitude, being complimented for 


the service he had rendered to the cause of union by his editorial and other 

(Please remember, Gentlemen, I am dealing with the contents of the 
pamphlets, and making no reflections on their individual preferences or 
policies. I have never yet in all my studies been able to adjudge who were 
right and who were wrong.) 

A few words about Brown’s part in all this, and then I am almost 
finished. If Murray was commended for his courtesy, this could not fairly 
be said of White’s other antagonist, the Brown man, who treated him 
satirically and not infrequently with scorn. This man rather fancied him- 
self as a champion of the old squad, and had his manner been less offensive 
he might have played a useful part in the conflict, for he had much of truth 
on his side ; but at this time, and during his further career as a minister, 
he was always f allin g foul of authority and at last had to be dispensed with. 
With it all, there were some humorous passages in his explosions. He was 
greatly tickled with the speech of Dr. Candlish at the Union Assembly, 
" that the Secession is extinguished in Scotland, those brethren who had 
not acceded to the Free Church having taken up a position which is not the 
position of the Church of Scotland, nor the position of Original Seceders.” 
In consequence he wrote a Letter to Candlish containing the following 
passage : 

“ I frankly acknowledge the success of your proclamation in the Free 
Assembly. When you first made it, it did seem as if there was some 
difficulty felt in going along with it, the cheers were few and faint, 
and a momentary sensation of pleasure passed through my mind as 
I said to myself — after all, the people have more sense than believe 
him, he is going too far, but when you came to the second ROUND, 
you did seem to gain advantage, the cheers were more numerous ; 
and by the time you reached the third — given with increased energy, 
you fairly carried the day, the cheers were loud and long ; and I saw 
clearly that you knew perfectly well how to manage the crowd.” 

Brown had for a considerable time been suspicious of White and of others 
who showed deep interest in Dr. Candlish’s Overture ; and Brown’s pam- 
phlet Free Churchmen and Seceders (1851, 58 pp.) examines the position. 
He realised that they were waiting for an opening to press for union ; and 
to his next pamphlet, after the Overture had been altered and improved, 
he gave the title Free Church Door for Seceders (1852, 51 pp.) or Dr. 
Candlish’s Altered Overture . . . Considered. In this pamphlet he casti- 
gates White in his editorial capacity as going all out for union on the 
strength of the Overture : and there is also this passage : 



(p. 3) ‘ ' Our Seceder leaders were very angry at my recent pamphlet, 
Free Churchmen and Seceders. They could not stand it, it must be 
put down. Accordingly Dr. Shaw, all cut and dry, as usual on such 
occasions, brought forward a long carefully prepared motion con- 
taining 7 charges said to be in the pamphlet against the Synod . . . 
Dr. McCrie proposed at the instant that the pamphlet should 
never be looked at . . . down with the pamphlet and its writer 
slapdash . . . but unhappily for the Doctor no man set his face to 
stand by him . . . (Others tried to establish the charges, but had 
little success) ; . . . The occasion of all this charging was just a mistake 
I had made. Dr. Laing, our learned professor of Hebrew, put me up 
to it : said the Doctor, “A plain man once gave me the advice, when 
you have anything to say against others, and they might get at you, 
just put in I think, and they cannot touch you for your thinks." Now, 
my pamphlet wanted the thinks ...” 

After the accession of exactly half of the Original Secession Church to the 
Free Church, Brown continued to taunt White, who had now of course — 
or rather perforce — relinquished the editorship of the Magazine (see 
Original Secession Magazine, July 1852, pp. 510-511) which he had hoped 
to carry on in some new fashion — in a curious pamphlet with the title A 
Dialogue on “ Free Church Door," between the Rev. Archibald Brown, 
A.M., Adam Square, and Nominis Umbra. This soubriquet had ap- 
parently been adopted by White in some previous reply to Brown (cf. 
Letter to Candlish, p. 8). The pamphlet runs to 29 small pages, and cost 4d. 
A few sentences will reveal something of the two combatants, or at least 
of the author who put the conversation into their mouths : 

Dialogue, p. 6 

Nominis. — I only wonder how a man of your standing should ever have 
expended one serious thought on so insignificant a creature as the 
Editor. For you to come forth against him, is like loading Mons 
Meg to shoot midges .... 

and, alluding to Brown’s constant criticism and searching out of faults 
and failings, he adds : 

Nominis. — I have been thinking, if your brethren had only the sense 
to make you fault-finder to the whole concern, and if you would 
assume me as your coadjutor, we would soon reduce the whole body 
by a process of winnowing, till only two particles of wheat remained 
amid a heap of chaff, and thus settle forever that endless question 
about the two witnesses. 

Brown. — If the two witnesses are not already slain, there can be no 
doubt that I am one of them. 



Nominis. — In confirmation of this view, it may be remarked as a 
beautiful coincidence that when mankind are again reduced to a 
single pair, as in Eden, a more appropriate dwelling-place they could 
not possibly have found than Adam’s Square. 

and then after charging him directly with treachery and secret dealing. 
Brown explodes ‘ ‘ I wonder that, since my exposure, he has not gone and 
hanged himself, like Ahitophel ...” To which White is said to reply, 
“ There is another supposition which may account for his not putting so 
summary an end to his existence : that he is entirely innocent of all that 
you have laid to his charge, and that you are guilty of manufacturing 
slanders against him that never had any foundation in fact . . . 

and (p. 30) 

Nominis. — Speaking of your name at Kirriemuir, reminds me of your 
frequent reference to your secret prayers. Would it not be better, 
in controversy at least, to remember that the law is, “ When thou 
enterest thy closet SHUT THE DOOR.” 


Mr. Maxwell in his paper in 1944 on The Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence 
has reminded us that pamphleteering was no new thing. He said of the 
decade 1690-1700 that there was hardly ever such a time of pamphleteering 
in the history of the Church. One may consider here for a moment, what 
sort of popular reaction there had been to the publication of these 
pamphlets throughout all the years : had they any wide public appeal, or 
was their interest confined to the twos and threes ? This can be answered 
in various ways. That they were read is indicated, in some cases, by the 
number of editions that appeared from time to time (either immediately or 
at longer intervals) ; also by the prices attached to many of them, and the 
location of booksellers and agents from whom they could be obtained 
(ranging from Aberdeen to the Borders and as far away as London itself) . 
They certainly passed from hand to hand, as flyleaf jottings testify. They 
were also advertised in book-lists, and referred to in the public press, from 
the Scots Magazine of the XVIII to the Courant and Mercury of the early 
XIX and the religious journals and magazines of their respective periods. 
Dr. Stevenson of Ayr (1844) referred to two previous editions of his pam- 
phlet on the Covenanted Reformation and the popular appeal for a 3rd 

The potential circulation of many of the pamphlets can be guaged from 
the membership of the Secession bodies at different dates : 



1820 : A.B. 145 cong. (1 in London). B. 158 cong. (3 in London : 
Ireland 100 cong. (300,000 mbp.) 

1836 : United Sec. Ch. 360 cong. (357 min.) incl. 30 in England. 

1845 : before 1852 split— Orig. Sec. Ch. 39 cong. 6939 members. 
“ The 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.” 

Apart from all that, however, was there a wider market and a popular 
taste for this form of literature ? I can imagine that at periods of crisis in 
the history of the Church (not confined to the Secession) there would be 
enthusiasts on both sides (for and against) to size up the combatants — if 
not the question at issue — for Scotsmen have always dearly loved a fight. 
Others again may have greeted them as a form of entertainment to add to 
the few newsletters and broadsheets then available : even enlivened by 
the flow of rhetoric and the vigorous and provocative language which 
encouraged them to exclaim “ Behold how these Christians love one 
another.” Perhaps in some cases the pamphlets might serve as a cure for 
insomnia, with their endless recitation of church history, and their en- 
tangled system of quotation so that it is difficult to know whether author or 
opponent is speaking. With all that, however, I am convinced that the 
circulation of these pamphlets stirred the minds and hearts of many 
persons in various ranks of society, keeping before them spiritual and 
moral issues, helping to keep true religion alive and encouraging the serious 
reader to dip into the Old Book and examine fundamentals, the foundation 
of his faith. 

Review of Discussions on Union between the Original Secession and 
Free Church : by Rev. John Sandison, O.S. Ch. Arbroath : Ed. 1852. 

“ It is to the credit of the religious intelligence and the Xn caution of 
the people of Scotland, that no separation and no union has ever been 
effected in the Presbyterian Church until after years of keen and 
often vehement discussion. In settling the terms of union, or it may 
be of disunion, the stores of history have had to be ransacked, the prin- 
ciples involved to be subjected not only to trial but to torture ; the 
excitement has spread, and the combatants multiplied, till to the 
trained dialectics of the study and the pulpit have been added the 
scarcely less disciplined logic of the counting-room and the workshop, 
and the attention of distant churches and nations has sometimes 
become fixed on the issue ...” 

Prices of pamphlets (where stated, or exacted) varied from i/6d. to id. 
One pamphlet ran to four editions at 1/- per copy. In my list so far as it is 
compiled, 11 pamphlets ran to over 100 pages (2 with over 400pp. and the 
rest between 104 and 174pp.) 



As already noted, the subject matter of the pamphlets surged around 
four main issues : Patronage : Relations between Church and State : 
Covenanting : Purity of Doctrine : and because of agitation about these 
matters, while some other Communions pursued a more or less steady path, 
the Secession Church became a tangled mesh of mystery. 

Patronage as an issue was eventually disposed of (so far as the pam- 
phlets are concerned). 

Relations between Church and State continued throughout to be a 
stone of stumbling and a rock of offence : but I cannot help feeling that 
this topic occupied an inordinate amount of space and squandered an 
immense amount of time which could have been more profitably employed. 
It is true that the powers of the Civil Magistrate were at one time a menace 
to society and Christian liberty but that time had long passed, and there 
should have been no rivalry of opinion at all as to the proper state of the 
question — as the Reformers originally envisaged it — that the State should 
aid the Church without exercising control over the Church’s freedom. Why 
should it have been necessary for the Old Light to see New Light or the 
Voluntary movement to break out and engulf half the kingdom in a bog ! 
Establishment is Scriptural, Voluntaryism only an expedient : but the 
Seceders (like some other bodies) were all voluntaries by compulsion, 
neither receiving aid from the State nor subject to oppression by the State. 
Hence we have the strange situation that pamphleteers were in a strife of 
words about an issue that had become purely academic and should never 
have been raised to polemical status. Surely conflicts of such a nature are 
not justified to the extent of splitting asunder the body ecclesiastical, and 
cannot command the blessing. 

Regarding the Covenants and Covenanting, this was a question of more 
intricacy, involving philosophy and theology alike, and a great deal might 
be said about it from different view-points. It was one of the main issues 
in the negotiations with the Church of the Disruption, and properly 
handled might have secured a happier future for the Presbyterian cause in 
Scotland. Perhaps then as now there were too many writers guilty of 
“ darkening counsel by words without knowledge.” 

Three of the reasons for secession emitted by the Secession Fathers in 
1734 have been mentioned : one further reason remained, one which took 
first place in their manifesto. Maintenance of purity of doctrine and a 
Scriptural simplicity and spirituality of worship has ever since been the 
professed object of the Secession Church. It has been pointed out in the 
pamphlets themselves and by many Church historians that whatever the 



faults and failings of the Burgher and Anti-burgher sections of the Church, 
each part proclaimed a pure Gospel and took an active part in the pro- 
pagation of that Gospel— not only at home but in England and Ireland and 
across the seas. Missionary activity was part and parcel of the Seceder’s 
task from 1750 onwards and that is a record of which they need never be 
ashamed. In fact it would seem that though born to fight, the claims of 
missionary work tended to mollify their native pugilism and close the 
ranks wherever possible (as we saw in relation to America and Ireland). 
Echoes may have rung from rock to rock with the sound of many voices — 
but now the turbulent waters descend to lower levels, becoming calmer as 
they meander through marsh and fen — till at their latter end they broaden 
out and begin to lose their identity in the all-embracing ocean— and the 
end is peace. 

It would seem as if a community, like the individual, however its 
members may be attracted to scale the heights and live for a season on the 
Mount of Vision and breathe the air of the Promised Land, must at the end 
gravitate to lower levels — in order perhaps to achieve with more united 
effort the task of the Church. Union (and Unity), with faith, is com- 
mendable, and preferable to small bands of visionaries holding aloof : but 
union, without instructed enthusiasm and fundamental integrity, is 
reprehensible, and injurious to the life of the Church. Much criticism there 
has ever been of a divided Church : but whose the fault ? If the un- 
orthodox returned to orthodoxy, the fusion would be swift and sincere. 

In the “ things that make for peace ” it is paradoxical but true, that 
the Church of Scotland owes its very existence today to the men who came 
out of it ; and in the remoulding of the Church, which one believes has 
begun to take place, the foundations of the faith (fought for and defended 
by the Secession above all others) are an essential ingredient which must 

novor ■fnrcrnttpn. 

should sit in judgment upon them i ioaay we nave - ; , ' 

us, difficult problems to handle, and a world to change. That is our task 
however and wherever we may be placed : let us get on with it.